Alexa and Matthew
How We Met
I am a candy fanatic. Chocolate covered, sugar coated, nutty, or cherry filled–you name it. And being in graduate school, the relationship only became more involved. I spent two times a day, four days a week in Grand Valley State University’s candy store. ( I’ve been corrected multiple times that it’s a book store, but I’ve never touched a book, so it’s a candy store. ) Regardless, throughout my love affair I questioned whether or not I spent too much time in the library, too much time study, and maybe a little too much on candy—yeah forget that.
Graduate school is an endless contest of the fittest, similar to the game show Survivor. How much information can you cram into that little tiny brain of yours until you start walking around forming incomplete sentences because it just can’t compute. But just wait– surprise, you forgot about the 200 page reading assigned last week. (Ahhh the crowd screams in terror). I often joked my new forwarding address was Steelcase Library, as I slept there most of the time anyway. The academy award for passing school goes to…..Candy.
Eventually I started to think, “How will I ever meet people in this condition?” “Is there someone out there for me?” and “Maybe I should skip some reading and go where other humans go, wherever that is.” And you know what–no. Because my graduate degree is important to me. And like my father always told me, “The one thing no one can ever take away from you is your education.”
So I walked back into the candy store and was confronted by a boy, with his hand over a name tag. He asked me how I was doing and I said “Fine, just getting…” He replied, “Your candy.” I just smiled– rightly confused. Then he proceeded, “What’s my name.” Okay, now I panicked, obviously I had seen him before, he worked at my candy store. But my brain was dried up–I would fail at Survivor: Graduate School edition. “Um I’m sorry, I don’t remember….” I cowered. He replied– quite quickly I may add, “I know your name is Alexa, you’re studying social work, you always come in and get the small little candies at least twice a day, and my name IS ALWAYS ON MY SHIRT so why can’t you remember it?” Okay, for someone who learned manners before she could talk, I was embarrassed to say the least. We talked for two hours that day. And we haven’t stopped since.
How He Asked
We had been talking about marriage for several months. And yes, I’m talking m-o-n-t-h-s. He was the first to bring it up. I vividly remember being filled with absolute panic, the kind where your brain stops functioning and you begin to wonder if you’ll ever be capable of forming a sentence ever again because it seems like the racing of your heart has taken over the language-forming in your brain for well-beyond the socially-acceptable period of time. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I wanted to be with him forever. But I never thought forever would be so soon. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized how meaningless it was for me to put a time-stamp on when the length of our relationship deemed us eligible for the “ready for marriage” seal of approval. My body just knew he was “the one,” [insert sappy, romantic-comedy-esque music here]. Now, this was in December.
By April, I began to question whether or not he had changed his mind. We picked the ring. Check. Discussed the details of the wedding. Check. But I had yet to see the man get down on the proverbial one knee–or maybe I had missed it completely and he had asked weeks prior, and we were going to walk down the aisle at the end of the summer (our previously discussed time frame) without my conscious knowledge or perfectly-altered wedding dress. We had my birthday celebration with my family, and still no proposal, followed by our graduation ceremony from Grand Valley State University, in which both of our families were together (the seemingly perfect opportunity), and still no proposal.
I started to contemplate whether or not I should just pop the question. Finally, I just said to him, what gives? He quietly stared up from me, and said, “I just want it to be perfect.” I took my first breath in about a month. “I don’t need perfect, I don’t need fairy tale,” I assured him, “I just want us.” The following Friday Matthew decided we should walk to the neighborhood park at dusk and light Chinese lanterns–something we had discussed doing for quite some time, as I had never seen them before. The weather was absolutely terrible. First of all, it was extremely cloudy, cold, and gusts of up to 30 mph. I turned to him and said, “maybe we should just do it another night?” “NO! We are doing it tonight,” he pressured back–that should have been my first hint. I am probably one of the most analytical people you will ever meet, but come on, he hadn’t done it yet, so I had given up expecting it.
We sat in the middle of the soccer field, and watched as a few, stranded, sad Chinese lanterns floated across the field from somewhere off in the distance. At this point, we had been waiting 25 minutes to get the lantern to light–the winds were not on our side. I could see him sweating. As I watched other people lighting these lanterns, and at least getting them somewhat off the ground, I said to him, “Hey, it looks like they are having some success, maybe we should go ask?” Again–he had waited this long, why would I catch on to any of these hints? He smiled back at me, and said, “No, let’s keep trying.” When we finally got the lantern off the ground, I looked up in the sky…and then towards the ground as the lantern slowly started floated towards someone’s house. “Shouldn’t we run after that, what if it sets that person’s tree on fire!” He looked like he was about to cry. “No, it will be fine!” he said. As I watched the other lanterns slowly climb, I turned around and he was on one knee.
I instantaneously stopped breathing. And he said (I’m paraphrasing), “I wanted this moment to be perfect. But I didn’t check the weather. I didn’t make sure that there wouldn’t be wind, and that it wouldn’t storm. That’s something you would have done. All my plans fell completely apart. But in a way, I think it’s a blessing in disguise. Because this just shows, right here, how much I need you. How perfect I am when I have you by my side. Alexa, will you marry me?” I sobbed. And then my parents ran down from the hill on the other side of the park, and I really sobbed. It was perfect, because it was totally, and completely, us.